So why did I start this blog in the first place? I started because I knew I had to grow. I knew I had to grow emotionally, spiritually, professionally and physically. I knew that if I didn’t grow and change and adapt, I would be stuck.
I don’t want to be stuck and I don’t want to stay the same. It’s not serving me well.
At each level of your life, the world demands a different you. A better you. The more (healthy) risks you take in life, the more life asks of you. Life asks for an improved version of you. What does that look like? It looks like YOU with more skills, more love, more patience and more self-awareness. Not just a new wardrobe.
Growing and moving in this positive direction requires that you adopt a proactive mindset. Stephen Covey’s Proactive vs. Reactive language choices. From “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People“.
There is something remarkable about growing better each day and discovering parts of yourself you never knew existed. This won’t happen if you aren’t willing to try new things, meet new people and put yourself out there.
Learn and read and watch inspiring people. Visit inspiring places. This starts with a wish list. I urge you to write down ten things you wish you were doing right now. Trips you wanted to take, classes you wanted to attend, movies you wanted to see, books, etc. It all starts with a desire.
Learn and read and watch inspiring people. Trust me, if you listen attentively enough, everyone is inspiring in some way, shape or form. Some may inspire you to change your attitude because you don’t like the way they behave. Yup. Even some of the most negative people in your life are teaching you something.
Turning Things Inside Out
Sometimes it is a good idea to take a look at your negative emotions and try to turn them inside out. Ask yourself what’s good about constantly being worried and afraid? Maybe it’s saving you from taking too big of a risk, like living beyond your means right now? The fear is real. Don’t negate that. But remember to find out why.
Ask yourself what’s good about feeling like you may become irrelevant? Maybe that’s you telling you to start learning new skills.
Ask yourself why you are so mad and frustrated that you still haven’t lost those sticky, pudgy 15 pounds? Maybe that’s you really telling you to become more disciplined with your life. To be more proactive rather than reactive about your life.
Growing With Your Pain
I am learning so much from Pema Chodron (she is a very wise Buddhist nun). I carry this little book with me wherever I go. It fits in my purse and I read her wise advice throughout the day.
A Fugitive From My Feelings
Oh this whole emotional growth, this is a big one. A difficult, frustrating and challenging part of my growth. Something that gives me the feeling that I might just start having those frightening panic attacks again. Nooooooooooooo!!!!
Instinctively I KNOW that the doors to my life are going to bust wide open when I begin to start facing my feelings. I mean actually feeling them for the first time. You see, for most of my life, I was a fugitive from my feelings.
For those of you who are looking for alternative ways to feel fully alive and present in your life, yes 100% radically accepting life as it comes while putting your best vibes forward, I strongly, highly . . . no I URGE you to listen to Tara Brach’s podcast. Listen to any of them, but one of my recent favorites “Sure Heart’s Release”
I would love to know “What Are You Unwilling to Feel?” – comment below.
Until tomorrow . . . .
A few months ago I began stripping away all that no longer serves me in my life. What is that suppose to mean? Without boundaries, I let way too much in and life got way too crazy. I was tired, pulled in a million directions and honestly, I allowed it. Frankly, I didn’t know how to say no.
I said yes to everything and everyone. It’s not a good idea. Well sometimes, in the beginning saying yes is good, like when you are building a career, but too much yessing can lead to real chaos and letting people down, including yourself.
I am moving towards a minimalist lifestyle that will give me the freedom to go and do what I want without the burden of having so much to take care of, including a house too big, a life too wide open and the collection of twenty years of unnecessary, unwanted “things”. Things I don’t use, wear or want any longer.
I started by cleaning out twenty years of clutter in the attic. It was exhausting and energizing at the same time. While I am not one to hold on to things, like memorabilia, my daughters had piles and piles of grammar and high school “stuff” they had collected throughout the years up there. I even made it a moment. I asked them all to come over for a memory lane party. They laughed at old love letters, praised their early art work and cringed at their eighth grade diaries. They didn’t want the stuff either. The memories they decided to keep are tucked away in the corners of their mind or on Instagram. The rest they let go of along time ago.
Clearing away the clutter for me also involves displacing anything and anyone (eew, that sounds harsh) that is no longer useful, helpful, valuable or lovable in my life. You see, I began to feel like others were pushing and pulling me in too many different directions, while my priorities were left on the back burner. I am now older and wiser and know that whatever time I have left on this planet, I would like to deliberately create some moments of creativity and adventure before it’s too late.
So what am I going to trim down, clean up, give away and simply remove from my life?
Frumpy Frocks & Spontaneous Purchases. Starting with my closet, shoes, sweaters, shirts, bags, dresses and worn out jeans that I have not even touched in six months or more. Good will and good riddance. I want to create a really fun “uniform” to wear. Something I don’t have to think about. That’s one less decision in the day.
Space Fillers & Dust Collectors. Souvenirs, books, artwork and other knick knacks that are no longer aesthetically pleasing to me. If it does not spark joy, I just don’t want it. I haven’t read Marie’s book and I won’t. The sparking joy was my review take away. It makes sense.
Crazy Makers. People that require special handling, those that need kid gloves and jokers that confuse me. Anyone that I find annoying or that appears to be even relatively unstable. You know, I have been a magnet for the crazy makers for many years. This also includes anyone who bores me, those that aren’t original, open-minded or interesting or genuinely fun to be around. The self-absorbed, stuck or painfully sad. Anyone I don’t have a true kindred enthusiasm for or feel I can growth with as I adventure on. Yeah, they’re gone.
Obsessive Worrying & Ruminating Thoughts. Negative thoughts that clutter my mind, that make me feel less than I really am. Small thoughts. Sad thoughts. Critical, mean self-talk. No more worrying, because, “Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.” Read on: 12 Toxic Thoughts You Need to Drop for a Better Life
Shitty Projects & Confused Corporates. Work that feels stupid, repetitive and ridiculous. People that go round and round because they don’t have a blueprint. Working with incompetent people. Things I just don’t want to do that I don’t have to do.
Excess – too many of any one thing. Rooms in my house, blankets on my bed, uncomfortable chairs, hard pillows, greased-bottom pots, scratched pans, broken cups and any sticky old debt on the credit cards. Oh to simplify and simply live with just what I need.
Random Files & Duplicate Photos. Files on my computer, my “filled-to-the-brim” email inboxes, old notes, usb drives with old brochures and dead campaigns, duplicate photos, and old contacts in my phone. People that I no longer talk to.
Crackers, Chips & Junky Food. Food and drink that makes me feel sluggish, fat and tired. Nah. Doesn’t serve me well at all. I never understood why they called it comfort food, expect for warm dishes of mac and cheese or mashed potatoes.
Time & Energy Wasters along with Old Fears & Everyday Frustrations. Good bye time, energy and money wasting activities. Waiting on lines, calling customer service, meetings in person that could have been Skype-d. Drives to stores when Amazon delivers. Anything that makes me feel like I need to be doing something else while I am doing that. Like commuting.
Mediocre Netflix Series & Silly Youtubers No, I just can’t. This is no way to fall asleep at night. I no longer enjoy watching crappy HBO shows just because everyone else is binging on them.
Bad habits. Yeah, like relaxing with two glasses of wine before I go to sleep. Fading into Facebook as my head hits the pillow. Any excuse not to work out. Answering the phone most of the time. Being too nice and polite to time suckers. Being neurotic while calling, emailing and texting the same message to one person.
Packing My Schedule. Yes, I am clearing out the calendar and filling it up with dates I save in the future for things I want to do. Wrapping up old projects and getting rid of the guilt. End commitments with a clear conscience.
One of the most difficult clutter to clear is that which we think we are suppose to keep. The inherited heirlooms, the mementos, the sentimental shit. I don’t make photo prints of photos any more, so shouldn’t I just digitize the old ones?
My new mantra everything should have value. When we begin to desire to clear out the old and useless, we are getting ready to heal, grow and begin a new. Getting clear about what you do want is a process of trial and error.
When you’re stuck in a state of ambivalence, you must do whatever it takes to break the impasse.
I am concerned about filling it all up again. I am a big believer that new habits must replace old ones in order to grow.
I will watch the slow the accumulation of possessions, for to live is to create and consume. It cannot be avoided – especially in our society and culture. But if the influx of possessions into our homes can be slowed, clutter can be managed efficiently.
To slow the accumulation of things in our homes, we need to change our mindset and begin evaluating our purchases differently. Realize that your purchases cost far more than the price on the sticker. Each one will also require time, energy, and effort once they enter your home. Before making a purchase, begin asking yourself these questions:
- Is this item really needed?
- Do I have a place to store this when I get it home? Do I want to lug it around with me?
- How much extra work will this possession add to my life?
- Am I buying it for the right reasons?
What are Keystone Habits?
Habits are what we do every day. Habits can help us grow or hold us back. Some habits are more important than others — they have the power to transform our lives.
Keystone habits lead to the development of multiple good habits. They start a chain effect in your life that produce a number of positive outcomes.
Getting enough restful sleep every night is a keystone habit. It will help you face the next day with energy, help you be more productive and think more clearly.
Exercising everyday is a keystone habit. Walking and working out will give you strength, keep off unhealthy pounds and boost serotonin to the brain, a chemical that will keep you serene.
Saving some money for the future is a keystone habit. Socking away a few bucks will keep each week will have you feeling more secure about that unpredictable rainy day ahead.
Read more about keystone habits in The Power of Habit.
Keeping Calm, A Crucial Keystone Habit
Chances are if you are reading this, you are to some degree stressed out. Focusing on managing our emotions while nurturing a peaceful mind is imperative to navigating the chaos of every day living.
The Multitude of Benefits that Come from Keeping Calm
- Keeping a cool head, remaining calm, no matter what situation arises is key to retaining common sense and gaining others’ respect.
- Managing our emotions in times of stress helps us maintain control over our lives.
- Standing composed while all around you is flipping out in a chaotic crisis helps keep your thoughts collected.
- A calm mind will bring about peaceful contentment.
- No matter what is happening, remaining calm will give you a sense of confidence.
- A peaceful and clear head will keep your vision for the future clear. Calm begets clarity.
- Staying calm during the biggest of battles will help you appear less crazy than your colleagues.
- Your concentration increases with each calm breath you take.
- Your worries become lighter and your state-of-mind more carefree.
- The thoughts that you have and words that you speak are less crass and more compassionate.
- Life is easier when we move with through challenges creatively in a calm way.
- We become more proactive and less reactive.
- We become kinder and less cruel when we are calm and take more thoughtful calculated risks instead of impulsively moving in every direction.
Okay, My Ideas on How to Stay Calm
Know that things are bound to go wrong today. They just are. Ain’t no getting around it. Someone will piss you off, drive you crazy, make you angry, but on the other hand, something good will happen today too. Guaranteed. Life is peppered with a bit of both.
Redefine what stress means to you. A dropped cell call? A cracked laptop screen? The wrong dressing on your salad? What does life-threatening stress look like to you? Define what a real threat looks like. Categorize what constitutes a real problem before you get hit with one. Everything else is easy.
Slow your speech and your gait. Seriously. Walk like a old wise spirit. No rushing, just simple, confident steps with your posture strong and your head held up high. Or sit still. Unless the house is burning down or someone is bleeding out, don’t react. Process the pain in the moment and then decide how you will react.
Put your hand on your heart. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Remember what really matters. Remember how short life really is. Ask yourself, what is most important to you right now?
Smell your way to serenity. Use calming oils throughout the day. Inhale lavender, rosemary or geranium before you send that scathing email or make that frustrating phone call. Keep an oil by your desk or burn a soy-based scented candle in your home or office.
Take calming action. Take care of what is in your control. Don’t hesitate. Get what you can get done. Don’t know what to do first? Make a priority list and check it off. Realize that life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it.
Clear all the clutter from your life. Your home, your desk, your relationships. If it isn’t serving you well, get rid of it. If you are going through a crisis, keep everything in your life really, really simple.
Carve out moments of joyful time. Hack your happy chemicals. Slip away for a while, get lost in a book, go for a walk, ride your bike, safeguard your sanity.If you are in the midst of a long-standing stressful situation, like caregiving for the terminally ill, making your way through a divorce, trying to find your next job, take a moment to do what you enjoy. Lower your level of cortisol by doing something that makes you happy.
Ask yourself what is good about this? Even though this horrible thing is happening right now, what is good about it? Perhaps it is a problem that finally came to a head? Maybe it will finally move you in a new direction that you knew you were suppose to go? Perhaps this problem offers you an opportunity to try something new?
Slow down on the consumption of everything. This includes drugs, alcohol, food and caffeine. Purposefully chew more slowly. Talk more slowly. Walk more slowly. Slow down to a very soft and gentle pace. Rushing to nowhere will bring no good effect.
Watch a sad, sad movie and cry really fucking hard. Cry until your eyes sting with pain. A list of heartbreaking movies to get you going here.
Realize how short life really is. Check out the internet’s friendly reminder of how long you are going to live, aka the Death Clock.
Give up your mind. Listen to a guided meditation. Author of Radical Acceptance and mindful meditator, Tara Brach offers a free podcast.
Play with puppies or watch puppies. Check out these live puppy cams.
and. . .
In a world of constant distraction, how do you focus on what is important? Watch the one minute video above for great advice from Rob Bell.
And the next new thing in your life comes when you leave behind things that previously would have belonged.
You, fully grounded and centered doing a few things, not distracted, or exhausted or or burned out, but you fully present doing a few things are 10x more powerful than you spread thin busy being distracted doing a 1,000 things.
In order to say no you first had to have said yes.
For many people there is no filter for what they say no to. It begins with a few things you have said yes to.
Ask yourself, What are the few things you are here to do?
And then you say no to everything else.
You know you are making progress when something that would have survived 18 months ago, no longer makes the cut because there is always a narrowing of the way.
The narrowing of the way always involves saying no to something that previously would have survived.
You are the steward of your energies.
Where are you using your energy?
Rob Bell, How to Be Here, June 2016
“No Bone” that’s what was written in black Sharpie marker on the bandages wrapped around her head. The trauma team wheeled my daughter past the waiting room so quickly I had to look twice and then again. No bone? what does that mean? Did they remove her skull?
It was an icy, sleeting, snowing, stormy day. The accident was bad. Ariel was brought to Nassau County Trauma Center and put on life support immediately. By the time we got to the hospital she was out of surgery. The removed her part of her skull to relieve the pressure.
One severe acquired brain injury, a terrifying time through her coma, two major head surgeries, four months at Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Traumatic Brain Injury center and two and a half years of rehabilitation later. It’s now been nine years since the accident.
How do we get through times like these?
We gather strength as we go.
Yes life can be hard. But we stay strong and in the moment.
We see clearly and act correctly.
All of us are facing some type of personal challenge and this post is meant to help you, my dear reader, face your challenges with a new outlook and a stronger mind.
“The perceiving eye is weak, the observing eye is strong.”- Miyamoto Musashi
The observing eye sees events, clear of distraction, exaggerations, and misconceptions. The perceiving eye sees “insurmountable obstacles” or “major setbacks”.
In our own lives, how many problems seem to come from applying judgements to things we don’t control, as though there were a way they were supposed to be?
How often do we see what we think is there or should be there, instead of what is actually there?
If you are facing a problem today, hold back your emotions. Observe the problem, see things as they are and nothing more than they are.
We all play many roles in life, sister, brother, wife, husband, doctor, lawyer, manager, director. . . Sometimes there are roles we want to play and other times their are roles we get to play. Taking care of a terminally ill loved one who may not be the best version of themselves due to pain, anguish and fear is not an easy role to play. My brother and his wife have taken care of my dear Aunt Angela with grace, love and humility. She passed away from pancreatic cancer in January.
My Aunt taught me so much, not just by words, but by effort and example.
Her biggest lesson to me -to give is to live and through giving we are truly living.
I feel blessed to have been able to spend time with her and to have been touched by her inspiration, passion and immense love for life. She gave freely of her time, her advice, her thoughts and her talent, energy and heart. The time she spent here with us was spent meaningfully and connected with our hearts and souls.
If she was needed, she showed up, fully armed with the research, willingness and incredible desire to be as helpful and encouraging and as compassionate as she could be. Whether it was with her career (she learned how to code at age 50 so that she could keep herself relevant and be helpful to the company she was working with) or it was through her mother’s dying days and her husband’s long and horrific bout with cancer. Aunt Angela continued to give even supporting my daughter who suffered a traumatic brain injury through long patient phone calls, letters and loads of love.
Aunt Angela would do the work and become knowledgeable in the best way to help and support those she cared about. Whatever she did, she was all in. No holds barred.
Without leaving out a detail she gave fully and with this giving she was fully engaged in life. She knew how to create space for others through their pain and suffering when it was needed and she also knew how to encourage us to move forward.
Aunt Angela is truly unique and has an astonishing combination of creativity and discipline. Whether she was expressing her love of life through photography, ceramics, knitting, writing, baking, cooking, she dove into each project deeply to learn and practice with disciple and determination.
I was both fascinated and amazed at Aunt Angela’s ability to turn “pro” at whatever she put her mind to.
Aunt Angela gave so much of her time through listening for hours on end while not judging but holding space for the most vulnerable parts in all of us and at the same time she knew how to fight, to be strong and to persevere. She did this so well, that at first I found it extremely challenging to understand why she did not want to continue with experimental and alternative treatments for pancreatic cancer. However I have come to understand and appreciate her deep spirituality and connectedness to life that left her unafraid to move on and she has done so with dignity and courage.
Aunt Angela was like a second mom to me. So different than her sister, my loving mother, who is incredibly strong-willed, intelligent, wise and incredibly loyal. Together, the combination of these two amazing women, these spirited souls, I have been blessed to have the guidance and love to keep me on track, navigating life with gratitude and appreciation for each and every miraculous moment here on earth.
It is with Aunt Angela’s fantasy-filled, child-like mind that I have gotten through the saddest and most tragic events in life with faith and understanding that we learn and grow from it all.
Aunt Angela may not have had a huge network of friends and acquaintances but to those that she held dear she made certain to give all that she had. Her time, her energy and love.
I will always take with me her biggest lesson. To give is to live.
Unlike those in the military, police force or competitive and professional sports, most of us are not required to have a disciplined training program every day. I have come to appreciate that no matter what you do, whether you are a graphic designer, content writer, human resource manager, executive recruiter, financial advisor or dog walker – it doesn’t matter – all of us could benefit by designing our own quality training program for life. I am in the process of reading the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work and while I find it amusing and a fun read, what I am really looking for in my own training program is something a bit more well-ordered and purposeful.
Result Rituals – Mind Wide Open
While I have started a daily program of what I call “result rituals” I am always in the process of fine tuning and adding elements to my regiment to increase my chances of results. My main goal – to become the best version of me I can be. I think it’s hard to argue that we should all strive to be the best we can be. One book that looks like it might help is Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life
A Quality Training Regiment
A quality training regiment (both physical and mental) that includes-
- A physical workout that also focuses on maintenance to prevent injury.
- Learning something new everyday to stay up to speed in our field of work.
- A spiritual program to keep us connected to our personal higher source in order stay in line with our values.
The Frustration of Staying Focused
I had a moment of realization today as I was thinking about how to be more focused. It’s hard to stay focused when we try to do too much. I think my brain begins to realize that if I have 20 things to do on my list, it will be impossible, so without my evening realizing it, my brain doesn’t believe I will get everything done and starts to struggle with the idea of feeling overwhelmed. Unrealistic expectations set us up for failure. Thinking we can accomplish too much in too little time. Be very mindful of how much you put upon yourself each day. Set realistic goals for the days, weeks and months ahead. Goals that have you improve, but with doable steps. We rarely leap to success, it’s usually in the small daily wins that we find we eventually reach our goals.
I am currently working toward the following goals.
Be More Here – All the Time.
Just ten minutes of meditation has helped me throughout the day. I am less apt to get distracted and learning to be at home in my mind and body. Meditation teaches us to watch the state we are in – are you daydreaming? worrying? what are you thinking about? One great tip -have a mirror at your desk and every once in a while look at yourself. Where are you? Are you here?
A Lasting and Consistent Way to Stay in Line with Our Values
Every morning I have been reading a few paragraphs of Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl which reminds me that it’s easy right now to say that I want to be the highest version of myself, but it is in the midst of darkness and despair when we need our faith and values most. I am training for the future. For the days when things might not be so bright and easy.
A Quote from Man’s Search for Meaning
I mentioned earlier how everything that was not connected with the immediate task of keeping oneself and one’s closest friends alive lost its value. Everything was sacrificed to this end. A man’s character became involved to the point that he was caught in a mental turmoil which threatened all the values he held and threw them into doubt. Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl
Great list of the 10 Biggest Mistakes When Setting Goals by Michael Hyatt.
I really appreciate practical approaches for creating meaningful change in my life.
In the last few days, I have gathered some tips from Tony Schwartz author of The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal and Robin Sharma The Greatness Guide: 101 Lessons for Making What’s Good at Work and in Life Even Better
My focus this week, moving from the survival zone to thriving in the performance zone.
This is where many of us spend a good portion of our days. I was just a mess yesterday as I spent my morning commuting through Manhattan’s busiest transportation hubs thinking about terrorist threats. I shut off the news immediately and stayed out of the subway.
Letting anger, frustration or fear take control. We don’t normally choose it, most of the time it happens to us. Whether we don’t feel appreciated, valued, respected or recognized, it doesn’t matter. We just can’t really live our best lives in this state.
the performance zone
A place where we feel clarity, freedom and a sense of accomplishment. This is a nice place to be. I like it here.
Robin Sharma recommends starting each day with a 20/20/20 lift off.
20 minutes of exercise, 20 minutes of journaling (gratitude and thoughts) and 20 minutes of learning.
Tony Schwartz recommends the four following simple ways to living better days.
Physical – sleep more -it’s more important than eating. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier and wake up 30 minutes later. Play around with the time and see how you feel.
Emotional – feeling frustrated? Don’t send that email just yet! Quiet down the body with deep breathing in for a count of three and out for six. Do it slowly for three minutes. This cuts out the flow of cortisol and puts your body and mind into a more relaxed state.
Mental – do the most important thing every morning for 60- 90 minutes (no more) every day. Do the work that will add the greatest value to your life and business first.
Spiritual -remind yourself who you are serving and reconnect to your values. Doing the right thing. Ask yourself everyday How would I behave at my best today?
I am curious, how do you lift off for better days? All practical tips and advice are welcome. Please share!